Hey everybody, I’m back this week with hopes of correcting an error on my part. In my book Road of the King, I unintentionally advocated an illegal move. While I certainly wouldn’t have advocated for this had I realized it was illegal, the error was my fault and I want to apologize for my misinterpretation and take some time to clear up how it works to avoid confusion for anyone who has read the book. The error will be removed from later editions of the book.
Let’s start out by talking about the error I advocated. It’s a fairly common and accepted practice to side out cards that are seen as unfair. Things like both players taking out Vanity’s Emptiness to avoid the random factor of whoever is fortunate enough o draw the one of being heavily favored to win the game. This is a completely legal and widely accepted practice.
The error on my part was derived from thinking the logic that makes this legal could be applied in similar situations. For this situation let’s assume you lost the first game and thus can choose who starts the next game. I suggested it might be advantageous to offer to have your opponent to side out the Vanity’s Emptiness-like unfair card in exchange for you choosing to go with their preference of who starts the game. I said that you might especially want to do this if you knew that your opponent wanted to go first and you wanted to go second anyway. That way you could gain the advantage of having the Vanity’s out of their deck, and they only get the perceived advantage of choosing to start, when your preference would align with their preference anyway, even if they didn’t want to take the deal.
Since the book has been published it has been brought to my attention that this is an illegal deal to offer or accept. I apologize for the misinterpretation of the policy and no longer advocate the use of this tactic.
If Konami wants to make it illegal, then that’s the end of it. While there was some dissent from policy makers about whether or not this was cheating, the consensus is that it is collusion. It’s perfectly within their right to dub it or anything else in the game as such, as they are the makers of the rules of the game. My question is how did all three of my editors who are all veterans of this game and myself miss this and allow it to go to print before it was caught? We have 25+ years experience between us, but miraculously this didn’t set off any alarms to any of us as ever possibly being illegal. How exactly could that be?
Now I can’t speak for my editors and as I have said it was my fault for not catching the error, but I can give some of the logic that lead me to believe it was perfectly fine when writing it. Again, the play is illegal, and this is not an argument to say that it is not. You shouldn’t attempt this and I apologize for any confusion it created.
What are the ways that this could be seen as collusion/bribery? Well, the rules state that the losing player decides who starts the next game. So would you be breaking this rule by offering for your opponent to side out a card in exchange for choosing who starts?
Are you offering to allow them to choose or are you offering to honor their preference of who starts? Is that not the same thing? There’s a small, but significant difference between the two. If you offer to allow them to choose, then you are breaking the rule of the loser of the previous game choosing who starts the following game. If you offer to honor their preference of who starts, then you are still choosing who starts, are you not? Are you not just offering to go with their preference, while retaining the right to actually decide who starts? You’re still deciding, you’re just deciding to go with what they want, aren’t you? And if you’re retaining the right to choose, then how could you be breaking the rule of giving up that right?
Everybody knows you can’t offer your opponent cash or cards in exchange for a win, but could this offer be illegal and fall under bribery/conclusion? After all you’re exchanging one thing for another, aren’t you? Isn’t that what collusion is?
Collusion: Offering X for Y
My question would then be how is offering for both players to side out Vanity’s Emptiness legal? Make no mistake, this is legal and there is no grey area when dealing with this. Players can offer to side out Vanity’s Emptiness for Vanity’s Emptiness and it’s completely legal. But wait, are you not offering one thing in exchange for something else?
Collusion: Offering who starts for Vanity’s Emptiness
Collusion: Offering X for Y
Not Collusion: Offering to side out Vanity’s Emptiness for Vanity’s Emptiness
Not Collusion: Offering X for Y
Now doesn’t it seem a little confusing that you can offer some things for some other things, but not certain other things for things? Are you not offering X for Y either way? Why do the specifics of what is X and what is Y determine what is collusion? Don’t they seem like the same thing?
I would be inclined to think that collusion would be for offering something in the game (the win) for something outside of the game (money/cards). That makes perfect sense for why it’s illegal. But in this case, how can offering one thing inside the game (Vanity’s Emptiness/who starts) for another thing inside the game (Vanity’s Emptiness) be illegal?
You could argue that Vanity’s for Vanity’s is an exception, because you’re offering X for X, not X for Y, but I would argue that’s just a fundamental misunderstanding of the offer to begin with. Saying that you’re arguing X for X implies that they are equal and that X for Y is unequal, but is that really the case?
The purpose offering to side out unfair cards has never been to make the game more fair. It was always to benefit the better player. Why? Because the better player is more likely to win the game if neither player has the unfair card in their deck, than if both players have the unfair card in their deck. The less skilled player is more likely to win the match if Vanity’s Emptiness were in both of their decks, because he might just draw it and win the match regardless of his skill level. Yeah, the more experienced person might draw it and win in a similar fashion, but by virtue of being the more experienced player wouldn’t he have been more likely to win anyway? Wouldn’t this offer disproportionately give an advantage to the more skillful player, even if the cards you are taking out are the same cards? The more experienced player is more likely to win if neither of them have it in their decks than if both of them have it in their decks. Thus, regardless of intent, it will never be a truly equal deal. It will always be X for Y since it will disproportionately give an advantage to the better player, and it could only be X for X if it was completely proportional.
If you can sometimes offer some concessions in the game for other concessions in the game, but can’t offer other things in the game for other things in the game, where is the line? And where can I find this line? Doesn’t it seem like they should perhaps be a little clearer?
Does it not seem like offering Vanity’s Emptiness for Vanity’s Emptiness is very similar to offering Vanity’s Emptiness for choice of who starts? How can one be illegal and one be legal? At the end of the day, it is illegal by most head judges standards and you should not do it, but I would like to call on Konami for a little more uniformity in policy going forward. It seems logically speaking like one cannot be illegal without making the other illegal. If one is legal, then the other should be legal. If one is illegal, then the other should be illegal. It seems nonsensical to have identical situations be arbitrarily decided based on a subjective determination by the head judge.
The error was entirely my fault and I apologize for it and will remove it from later editions of the book, but I find it entirely ridiculous that the policy guidelines can be ambiguous enough to not send up any red flags to four veteran players reading the play. This is a call to reduce anonymity in the policy guidelines. I don’t think “depends on the head judge” should be a satisfactory answer when it comes to matters of policy. I find it absolutely ridiculous that something can be completely legal in one tournament and illegal in the next. As I mentioned, it was not even unanimous that this was illegal. As players we should not be satisfied with this level of ambiguity in policy. It should be our right to know exactly where the rules are in the game and they aren’t something that should be subjectively changed from tournament to tournament. The rules should be consistent from tournament to tournament and as players we should pressure Konami to update their policy to reflect this consistency. Until next time, play hard or go home!